I’ve raised chickens for a long time now and tried numerous sizes of chicken coops. I’ll talk about the proper size needed so your chickens have enough space and you don’t build too big a coop.
4 chickens need 40 square feet of run and 8 square feet of sheltered space for roosting and nesting. That’s a 4’x10’ run with a 4’x2’ shelter. If using a chicken tractor, you can reduce the run size in half, as long as you move it often. For free-ranging, you only need an 8-square-foot shelter or 2×4 feet.
To be more in-depth, the minimum size of your coop depends on the breed of chicken you have and whether or not they are confined indoors, or have outside space. I’ve laid out all the specifics below.
Coop Size per chicken in square feet
|Bird size||Age||Open housing||Confined housing||cages|
|heavy||1-8 weeks||1 foot||2.5 feet||Cages not recommended|
|9-15 weeks||2 feet||5 feet||Cages not recommended|
|16+ weeks||4 feet||10 feet||Cages not recommended|
|light||1-11 weeks||1 foot||1 foot||45 inches|
|12-20 weeks||2 feet||5 feet||60 inches|
|21+ weeks||3 feet||7.5 feet||75 inches|
|bantam||1-11 weeks||0.6 feet||1.5 feet||40 inches|
|12-20 weeks||1.5 feet||3.5 feet||55 inches|
|21+ weeks||2 feet||5 feet||70 inches|
*Due to their weight, large breed chickens are not recommended for cage living. They can end up with problematic foot sores from the wire floor. Heavy breeds weigh over 10 pounds full grown.
What Coop do I Need for Four Chickens?
Your coop may be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. Some people spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy, insulted, well-built coop for a few chickens. Some people only spend forty bucks. Then there are people like myself who have never spent a dime on a coop by using repurposed materials.
You need to know your budget before you begin. Do you want to spend two hundred dollars on a coop? Are you okay putting twenty dollars into it? perhaps you are in a position where you can’t afford to spend much of anything. That’s okay, I’ve been there.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify something. A coop is an enclosed shelter, not the entire chicken pen. Of course, they need a pen or yard too. The coop is where the nests will be. It’s also where they will roost for the night.
The minimum for four chickens is 8 square feet for the actual coop. you can always build it bigger, and many chicken owners do. The bigger you build it, the longer it will take to get full of chicken poop. A lot of people like to have a coop large enough to walk into.
You can use any material that you like, or that you can get cheap. If you have materials on hand, even better. It doesn’t take fancy equipment or even good carpentry skills to build a coop. As a friend once told me, “you’re building a house for a homeless bird, I don’t think he’s gonna complain”.
If you want to build fancy, sure go for it. if you don’t want to or can’t don’t sweat it. There are a lot of options on the table here. Chickens can live in a confined coop or an open-housed coop. In confined coops, chickens don’t get outside, so they need more floor space.
A Coop for Free-Range Chickens.
If you need a coop for free-range chickens, that’s a fairly easy task. Your coop should keep your chickens safe and dry. And it should stand up to the weather. It should be at least 8 square feet, which is a little under 3×3 feet square.
The height should allow them to stand up and stretch their wings, and perch on a roost. 2 feet tall is plenty for 4 chickens. With a roost 8 inches off the ground, they will still have enough head space to be comfortable. But like I said, if you want it bigger, you can build it bigger.
If you are free raging, you might want your coop to be light enough to easily move around. By moving it around, you will encourage your chickens to forage in different areas instead of in the same place all the time. that will help them get enough food, and not make too much of a mess in one place.
Most coops are wooden. Some are made with corrugated steel siding screwed onto a wooden frame. You can use plywood or OSB. Pallet wood is also used fairly commonly for small coops. Your coop is best built into a square or rectangular shape.
The roof needs to be watertight. A roof with an angle to run off water will always leak less than a flat roof. A heavy coat of exterior paint will help protect the wood. From the weather.
You can find outdoor treated plywood, but if you are using OSB, you need a heavy coating of exterior paint to keep it waterproofed. Moisture will cause OSB and untreated plywood to swell and fall apart very quickly.
Make sure your coop has room for at least one nesting box. Your chickens will appreciate it if you give them a sturdy roost to climb on. Chickens are happier when they have a roost for the night. You also need to have a locking door on it.
Raccoons, weasels, opossums, and skunks are nighttime predators of chickens and can kill several chickens in a night if they can get to the birds. Make sure that when your birds go in for the night, you lock them in, and predators out.
Coops for Confined Chickens
If you are confining your chickens to a fenced-in pen, much of the same applies. You need to add to that, a run also called a pen. The run is simply a fenced-in area where the chickens can roam and scratch the dirt. They will spend a lot of time in the run, all day except when laying an egg.
The run should be fenced in so that a predator couldn’t get into it. often, you’ll see that chicken owners put fencing or netting across the top too. That keeps out hawks, owls, and raccoons, and it keeps the chickens from flying out.
Chicken tractors are getting more popular these days. A chicken tractor is a lightweight pen with a coop that is moved around in a pasture area. The chickens get most of the benefits of free range but are kept safe from predators. It also keeps them out of your tomatoes, chickens will destroy ripe tomatoes.
When using a chicken tractor, a smaller run, or pen can be used as long as you keep it moving around to a clean spot. I built a chicken tractor that houses 7 laying hens and a rooster. The run is 3 feet wide and twelve feet long. The coop is about four feet square and it’s right on top of the run.
My chicken tractor is built out of old deck board and goat fencing. The coop on the top is an old IBC tote. That’s what I had around. It serves me quite nicely. I move it to a fresh spot when I notice it’s getting messy. I have wheels on the back so I can maneuver it easily with one person.
Another one of my favorite chicken pens is an 8×8 dog kennel with chicken wire across the top. I just open the door and put it up against the door on my coop so they can walk in. It worked great for years. It was the most durable and simple option I have tried. I found the kennel used, for quite cheap.